The couple were found close to the summit of Cairn Gorm. Photo: John S Ross CC-BY-SA-2.0

The couple were found close to the summit of Cairn Gorm. Photo: John S Ross CC-BY-SA-2.0

A rescue team leader said a couple who spent the night on a Highland mountain probably owe their lives to their plastic bivvy bag.

The walkers were found close to the 1,244m (4,081ft) summit of Cairn Gorm on Monday after a search in conditions described as ‘Arctic’ by rescuers.

The man, 59, and the 56-year-old woman set out from Glenmore with their collie dog on New Year’s Day but failed to return, prompting an overnight search of the Cairn Gorm plateau by members of the Cairngorm and Braemar Mountain Rescue Teams, an RAF MRT and the Inverness Coastguard search and rescue helicopter.

A Cairngorm team spokesperson said: “The missing persons were not found overnight and a full team search was initiated for first light which included the SAR helicopter and RAF Mountain Rescue Team.

“The search continued in very poor weather conditions which hampered flying. This resulted in most of the areas being covered on foot by MR teams.”

The couple and their dog were found about midday on Monday in near-zero visibility. They were helped back down to the Cairngorm Mountain ski resort car park. Police Scotland said they were safe and well.

The pair, from England, had used their plastic bivvy bag to shelter on the mountain overnight in sub-zero temperatures, snow showers and winds reaching 30mph.

Cairngorm MRT team leader Willie Anderson told the BBC: “They misjudged how long their walk would take them yesterday and then the cloud closed in and it started snowing.

“They were a bit disorientated but at least they had a bivvy bag to shelter them. That probably saved their lives.”

The heavy-gauge plastic bivvy bags, big enough for an adult to climb into, are available for less than £5 from most outdoor retailers.

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